"Full-power ammo, lead-free bullets and 100 percent lead-free rounds."
International Cartridge Corporation is a specialty ammunition manufacturer with a focus on frangible ammo for both training and police duty. Some of the loaded cartridges are lead-free, i.e., lead-free primers. All of the projectiles are lead-free. ICC has been producing factory ammo at its Pennsylvania location since 2000.
Three Different Bullets
In the handgun line, ICC produces three basic bullets. The Green Elite PTR (Polymer Training Round) and PNT (Polymer Non-Toxic) use a polymer matrix bullet. Tiny pieces of copper (powder) are bound together with a polymer (plastic) compound. The Green Elite PTR (Polymer Training Round) and Green Elite PNT (Polymer Non-Toxic) bullets are not jacketed.
The basic difference between the PTR and PNT ammo is in the primer, not the bullet. The PTR (Polymer Training Round) uses standard-lead styphnate primers. The PNT (Polymer Non-Toxic) uses lead-free primers. The Green Elite PTR and Green Elite PNT ammo is also loaded to lower velocities than the other Green Elite handgun. This ammo is very pleasant to shoot.
The second line is the Green Elite TR (Training Round) and NT (Non-Toxic). These loads use a copper-jacketed copper / tin bullet. This is basically a mechanically compressed powdered metal (but not heat-treated) bullet. The compressed powdered metal “green” slug is wrapped with a copper jacket. Again, Green Elite TR means a lead-primer training round, while Green Elite NT means a non-toxic, lead-free primer training round.
The third line, the Green Elite HP Duty, uses basically the same copper jacketed bullets as the TR and NT lines. The obvious difference is the bullet core has a hollowpoint cavity. The Green Elite HP Duty hollowpoint doesn’t expand or “mushroom” like a lead core hollowpoint. Instead, the hollowpoint cavity wall is forced open, which breaks the front half of the bullet into large frags that leave the main bullet path. The remaining main core continues to penetrate deeper.
Lead-free primers have come a long way since they were introduced 20 years ago. The lead-free primer compounds are more ignition reliable, less sensitive to moisture and more sensitive to hammer or firing pin strikes. The misfire rate is much smaller, the ignition reliability is much greater, than even five years ago.
That said, the traditional lead styphnate primer remains the most ignition reliable. For that reason, the ICC Green Elite HP Duty ammo uses standard lead primers. As reliable as lead-free primers have become, a misfire on the range is simply an impromptu weapon/jam clearing training opportunity. A misfire on-duty has much more serious implications. Green Elite HP Duty ammo uses mission-critical lead primers.
Copper-Tin Bullet Accuracy
The Green Elite HP Duty ammo uses copper jacketed bullets with the bullet core made of copper and tin. These lead-free bullets are much lighter than copper jacketed bullets with lead cores for the same bullet size. A bullet with the same size, shape and length of a standard 40 S&W 180-grain lead core JHP weighs just 125 grains with a copper/tin core. A bullet the same size, shape and length of a 45 ACP 230-grain lead core JHP instead weighs just 155 grains.
This lighter weight allows ICC to load these bullets to higher velocities. The result is the same slide impulse for the same cycle reliability. The result is also much higher bullet energy. Energy is the ability to do work, like penetrate hard objects and disrupt soft tissue. Again, both the Green Elite HP Duty and the Green Elite TR are no-nonsense, full power loads. They both produce full felt recoil and complete slide functioning. The empty brass ejects in the same direction as conventional ammo and is thrown the same distance.
How does the accuracy of the ICC polymer-copper and the jacketed copper-tin bullets compare to standard bullets? We fired the 40 S&W Green Elite HP Duty 125-grain ammo against one of the most popular 180-grain JHPs. Then we fired the 40 S&W Green Elite TR 125-grain flatpoint against one of the most popular 180-grain FMJ ball rounds. In both tests, the pistol was the Glock Model 35 Tactical/Practical and the range was 25 yards.
The 40 S&W Green Elite HP Duty load averaged 2.7-inch, 5-shot groups, compared to 3.3-inch groups from the standard 180-grain JHP. The 40 S&W Green Elite TR training load averaged 3.3-inch groups, compared to 3.2-inch groups from the 180-grain FMJ.
From the Colt Model 1911, Series 80 we fired the ICC Green Elite HP Duty and Green Elite TR ammo against the competition. The Green Elite 155 grain FP averaged 3.5-inch groups compared to 2.0-inch groups for 230-grain FMJ ball. The Green Elite 155-grain HP Duty went into 4.1-inch groups, compared to 230-grain JHP ammo that shot 4.0-inch groups.
Point of Impact
One of the possible downsides of lighter, faster bullets at possible police engagement distances, is the point of aim versus point of impact. Lighter, faster bullets may impact lower on the target. For the same felt recoil, the same slide momentum, the faster bullet may exit the barrel at a lower point of the muzzle rise, compared to slower bullets. Since it is out of the gun at a time when the sights might be lower on the target, the bullet might strike lower on the target.
We recorded the “zero” of the groups for all the standard and Green Elite ammo fired for accuracy testing. We checked to see how much point of aim – point of impact difference there really was from the admittedly long engagement distance of 25 yards. The Green Elite 45 ACP 155-grain HP Duty hit 1.5 inches lower at 25 yards than a standard 230-grain JHP. The Green Elite 45 ACP 155-grain TR had a zero 1-inch lower than standard 230-grain FMJ. All of the Green Elite 40 S&W ammo (HP Duty, PTR and TR) had exactly the same point of impact as standard loads. The groups literally overlapped.
In terms of point of aim – point of impact, all of the ICC Green Elite and all of the competitive loads struck inside the B-27’s 10-ring at 25 yards. Both 45 ACP loads had group sizes that edged into the 9-ring, but the zero for both was inside the 10-ring. That difference is well within the shooter accuracy from this range, i.e., it has no effect on combat accuracy.
Frangible bullets and stopping power have gone hand-in-hand since the Super Vel and Glaser Safety Slug hit the police scene in the 1960s. Simply put, a standard lead core bullet produces one wound channel with a moderate to late energy release. A properly made frangible bullet (like the Green Elite HP Duty) produces a large number of secondary wound channels.
The front part of the HP Duty fragments into a dozen or so frags that penetrate outward 4 to 6 inches from the main bullet path. The larger, rear part of the HP Duty bullet continues to penetrate on a straight line, just like ordinary lead bullets forming the main bullet path. The result is an earlier to moderate energy release. The human body is just not that big. Many traditional hollowpoints have an energy dump that is too small or too late.
The most obvious question when discussing frangible bullets for duty use is this: Will it turn to powder on impact? Will it fragment on the first thing it hits? Answer: No. The proof is the famous FBI Ammunition Test Protocol. The FBI ammo tests involve heavy clothes, sheet steel, wallboard, plywood and auto glass placed in front of 10 percent ordnance gelatin. Penetration distances after these secondary tactical obstacles are carefully measured.
The copper jacketed copper / tin Green Elite HP Duty bullet performs just like a conventional lead core bullet against these tactical obstacles. Don’t confuse polymer bonded, frangible bullets with copper jacketed, copper / tin bullets. By design, frangible bullets don’t penetrate hard objects, while copper / tin bullets certainly do penetrate hard objects!